Damien Brunner must have really impressed in his tryout with the New Jersey Devils this past week, as the two sides announced that they have agreed on a two year deal worth a total of $5 million.
Brunner is a guy who can easily fit into the top six of this team immediately; he can be the kind of offensive help the team has been looking for. He contributed nicely on the Detroit Red Wings last season, but went unsigned when he wanted a multi-year deal.
There are some flags with him, however. He spent seven years of his career playing inferior competition in the Swiss league. He posted a -6 +/- on a team that ended up a +9 overall, showing that he may lack a bit on the defensive side; he seems to be streaky. He had one month in which he scored seven goals last season, and only five goals over the other three months. He also went all of February without scoring a single goal.
While there may be quite a few cons, the pros seem to outweigh them. Brunner played extremely well in the postseason, with a line of 5-4-9 in the two series the Red Wings played in, and scored the overtime game winning goal in Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks. He is definitely clutch.
Brunner is only 27 years old and should be coming into the prime of his career, and the Devils get him for two years at a very cap-friendly number. He is going to take offensive pressure off the likes of Adam Henrique, Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias, and he is a very low risk signing. His upside is high, as he was on pace to get 48 points over an 82 game season, and he’ll only grow with more NHL experience. This may hold down the young guns on the Devils this season, but after some soul-searching, in terms of the contract, it definitely is a move that is one we expect from Lou Lamoriello. Low risk, high possibility of reward.
The Devils found a way to teach Ilya Kovalchuk to be a two-way player, and this guy will be easy to groom after that project. Expect to see him on a lower line to start the season, but to eventually move up to play with the likes of Elias and Henrique.